The “Nurturing” Game

By Marcus Bussey

A question that faces many aspiring Neohumanist educators is how to inspire a sense of devotion for the subtle yet ever present sense that we are part of a much bigger ‘drama’ than our material reality, and our schools/centres, lead us to believe. This subtle feeling revolves around our sense of purpose. Our ‘what is my life all about’? For Neohumanists this feeling of purpose is anchored in our ‘love’ for the World and for that Cosmic vibration that hums along with it. Essentially this is a devotional stance. This love sits at the tender heart of our being and is what the founder of Neohumanism, Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, called in Sanskrit, our ‘Ishta’.

Shrii Sarkar notes of this ‘ishta’ that it ‘means the object whom you love most’. This for many finds expression as a deep longing. It is what moves us to work tirelessly for the benefit of others but, when not recognised it can also be what leads us into deep materialism and ambition. So, a force unrecognized can easily distort, twisting our lives this way and that. Essentially, in the spiritual context, this longing is a devotional force. We need to pay attention to it, and nurture it.

As we engage with life it is easy not to care for this devotional feeling, to unconsciously draw on it until it is worn thin and frayed. Then we are at risk of burn out. This of course is a problem that all in Service to the Cosmos face. The ‘Nurturing’ game is one way we can convey something of this important asset to those of us who have ‘forgotten’ and quite likely never been introduced to this concept.

This activity is for a group of teachers, parents, administrators etc. It requires a large space and some gentle and dynamic music.

Preparation: Three music tracks

1. Peaceful and calm: I used
2. Starts slowly but rises to a crescendo: I used
3. Conclusion: Richter Mercy

Part 1: Setting the Scene

Ask everyone to lie (or sit) down with eyes closed. Put on some easy gentle music (Track 1: Einaudi Il Giorni). Begin by telling a little ‘story’ about Ishta as that special place within us all that we often forget is there, but it is our most cherished ‘thing’, like a walled garden filled with beautiful flowers.

We often leave the garden gate open and let weeds grow… we forget to ‘self-care’ – the same is often true in the world where we fail to recognise that which really provides meaning, connection etc in the world…

Ask the group to open their eyes. Lower the music… Tell the group we are going to dramatize this story to reflect on what is happening when we do not care for our ‘Ishta’

Part 2: The Game

Either the group or you can nominate someone to play the role of ‘Ishta’ (needs to be someone with a specific role or someone who is theatrical in nature). In the case of a school or early childhood centre it could be the director who carries the ‘weight’ of the world on their shoulders. This person represents the vision/passion/energy (Neohumanist philosophy of course) and acts as an external ‘ishta’ to the group.

Then choose 2 or 3 people to act as ‘aggressive’ elements trying to catch the Ishta and bring her down… Then ask the majority of the staff to play the role of protectors… check that all know what their role is to be. Ask:

  • The person playing Ishta to state their role
  • Those playing the aggressors to state their roles
  • Those playing protectors to state their roles

Change the music (Track 2: Einaudi Devinire) to something that rises in a dramatic arc… it should last about 5 minutes

Part 3: The Reflection

As the ‘drama’ session ends we sit in a circle. First, I invite the one who played Ishta to speak. What did it feel like? Was it real? Anything else? Then, I invite general reflections.

Then I have people sit in small groups and discuss how this activity felt… what was it like playing their role? How do they (or could they) protect their own Ishta? Also inviting them to reflect more broadly on how we all too often let what is meaningful go for the sake of ‘peace’ or convenience… still in these small groups I ask them to strategize how they can become more aware of their Ishta and take steps to repair their inner garden (or the inner garden of their workplace/community).

I invite them to put ideas down on post-it notes and put them up on a wall. Then we look at the responses and organise them according to the context, such as: Personal inner work; working in community; working in an institution; working in nature. Wherever they are… what are some key strategies? Techniques like meditation, kiirtan, but also honouring collective space, honouring one’s colleagues, protecting one another, speaking truth to unhealthy habits in oneself or others…. And so on.

I end this activity with slow movement to music (Track 3: Mercy) such as the Interplay one hand dancing activity.